During a virtual question-and-answer session Thursday, officials from Southern California Edison spoke with Santa Clarita Valley residents — who largely criticized the electrical company’s Public Safety Power Shutoff program — while utility officials promised improvements were underway.
Dozens of Santa Clarita Valley residents demanded explanations for how PSPS areas are selected, why they happened often last year in the SCV, and how communication between the utility and customers can be improved.
SoCal Edison officials said during their portion of the presentation that they had shut off power to 138,000 customers last year in order to reduce the threat of wildfires, and said the shutoffs, also known as Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS), are designed to be a last resort. But because fire seasons in California continue to worsen through the years, the shutoffs and/or other safety measures have had a correlated increase.
In order to decrease the number of shutoffs implemented each year, Edison said in 2020 alone it had installed 960 circuit miles of covered conductors, 6,090 fire-resistant poles, installed 590 weather stations, and completed thousands of inspections and installations on other aspects of the power grid.
SoCal Edison then laid out a five-step action plan they said they’ll continue to implement in order to improve their service, which includes: quickening the speed at which they improve the power grid, increasing PSPS transparency/communication, reducing the impact of the PSPS, improving engagement with the community and enhancing their post-event reporting process.
Edison officials then pulled up a map during the community meeting that showed which areas of the Santa Clarita Valley were most impacted by PSPS and how SoCal Edison would be “hardening” the grid, or reducing the number of PSPSs through installing safer, more weather-resistant equipment, such as more insulated wiring, segmentation of the power grid and new protocols.
“The (standardization process) is targeted on the hardest-hit communities, but I do want to reinforce that our general grid hardening effort goes well beyond these hardened circuits,” said Terry Ohanian, Edison’s director of expedited grid hardening. He later added, “Our goal is to achieve reductions in scope, or the number of customers impacted; reductions in the number of PSPS events and reductions in the duration an event should it occur; and also to complete this work in the time frame between now and Oct. 1, which is historically when we see our highest PSPs impacts.”
The areas for the SCV experiencing expedited improvements in order to be ready for this year’s fire season are Stevenson Ranch, Castaic, Valencia, Saugus, Canyon Country and Sand Canyon. SoCal Edison said other areas near Castaic Lake, northeast Valencia, around Central Park and off Soledad Canyon Road have been analyzed and there will be a reduced number of PSPS for those residents.
A third group of subcommunities in Castaic, near Central Park and in northeast Canyon Country have been designated for protocols that would switch those customers to nearby circuits that are not impacted.
SoCal Edison officials are holding a second online live stream for the Acton, Agua Dulce, Green Valley and Lake Hughes communities on March 30 at 6 p.m. For more information on how to join the conversation, visit www.sce.com/wildfire/Community-Safety-Events.